I started writing this piece in December of 2013, so some of the references to time may seem off- this piece took a long time for me to compose. I fairly sure that I will be writing more on this topic as it is something that effect me quite personally. I sat on this piece for I was unsure if I ought to post this- but I think it is something that I have been addressing and I hope others are comforted and encouraged.
Until this year, I don’t think I have been complimented on my body. Maybe it is just were I have been living or what, but I have never been complimented on my body. I am very self conscious about my weight and body composition. This past year, I have been working hard training in the gym- writing down my progress with weights, being consistent with my training, ie 4-5 days a week. But I never really saw the scale move. I have gained about 10 pounds, (I flux 5-7lb through out the day, ~3% of my body weight) so the scale is disheartening. But over the last year or so, my pants size has stayed the same. My my shoulders and traps have gotten bigger as evident in the way my shirt fit tight in the upper body and loose in the lower. My T-shirts are too short now because of the amount of material required to cover my shoulders and traps. I started to see separation in my quads and arms…
I started getting compliment from people in the gym on my body, I got asked question about how to get better at lifting. I got asked about my routines and training philosophy. This is all strange and new to me.
Over the past year I have become conscience of how my body actually works. How my eating habits effect my weight and performance. How my lifting schedule and routine effect me body composition. I learned how much sleep affects my performance. I learned that sandals are what have been fucking up my knees for the last few years. I learned that shoes where what holding me back from heavy lifts. I learned that fear of the weights is what kept me from lifting heavy on my major lifts, therefore, I am stronger that I could imagine (I still have more in the tank, I just have not had the occasion to test those limits.)
However, most importantly I recognized that I have a very skewed body image- For the longest time, I thought only women had body image problems, apparently I do to. Granted it has not led to self harm, but I have to be very careful. I am learning just because I can put on mass and it is muscle, it does not mean it is good for me; too much weight, either muscle or fat puts undue strain on the heart, elevating the heart pressure which cause expedited wear and tear. (I have fast approaching the threshold with my weight, cardio work alone will not fix blood pressure at my weight, I must drop mass.)
With this all being said; I have struggled with my body image for years. It has affected more than what I do in the gym, it has effected how I engage people. I was (and still am) over weight and perceived myself as ugly and unworthy of compliment. Any compliment that was remotely related to my body or physical capability I saw as a consolation prize, a pity pat on the back- I could never take to heart what was trying to being communicated to me. I could never receive the encouragement that was given to me because I saw the comments as demeaning, for I was too caught up in nit picking the things that I did not like about myself. I thought that people saw me as I saw myself- ugly and no good.
People have a hard time believing this when I tell them this. Maybe because I am a man. Maybe it is because I tend to hold myself with a fairly sure confidence air. Maybe it is because I do not exhibit the the classic signs that people look for in people with body image disorders. I have never starved myself, force myself to throw up, done mountains of cardio, nor engaged in extreme diets. But did spend a great amount of time reading about nutrition, weight training, and imagining being this person that I was not. It consumed my thoughts and everything I did was in order to be this person that I thought I needed to be gain other’s acceptance and love.
I became dishearten that when I was not seeing the results that I was expecting. So I turned my efforts powerlifting, thinking, “If I am going to be ugly, I am going to a strong a I can be!” And I enjoy that challenge- and because of that I am began to accept who I am, my perception and intrapersonal talk became to become more positive. By focusing on my strengths (no pun intended) and not what I was not good at (endurance running, for example) I became more confident in what I was doing, I began to see an improvement in how I see myself.
Does that mean I am completely acceptant of where I am. NO! To be so would be stupid. To become complacent is dangerous- I desire to keep on increasing my maxes on my lifts, I want to run again- something I never got back after my knee injury, and I want compete in powerlift, even if it is just for fun. This means pushing myself out of my comfort zone, admitting to others that I need help and encouragement. Lastly, I means I need to learn how to give encouragement, which is easier when you are not doing out of a begrudging heart.
For me, body image has more than physical repercussions- it effects my relationships with other people; how I treat them, accept them, and ultimately trust them. When I can come to terms with what I struggle with, I open myself to healing. I am made in the image of God- both physical and mentally, and I am a steward of this body and this life so I must seek to be the best steward of this body and mind and that means admitting and addressing my issue with body image.